Working with governments on open data.

This is my talk for 2016–11–01 at the ODI Summit in London. 5 minutes, 8 slides.

I’m Tom. I run a software company called imactivate and I’m the Head of Data Challenges at the Open Data Institute Leeds.

ODI Leeds is one of over 40 nodes, but one of just two pioneer nodes, of the Open Data Institute in London. We have a 100-person event space in central Leeds.

We are funded by 10 fantastic sponsors; 4 local governments, 4 private businesses in Leeds, a state-owned company, and a university. We win projects, sell products, deliver training, and run events to pay the bills. Most of us have our own businesses too.

We exist because we think that people and organisations need to work together much better. We think that working in the open, often but not always with open data and open source software, is the best way of achieving more together.

I’m giving four examples — there are many more at

Our hexmaps are used to display ward data for 12 cities and local authorities around the UK. All ODILeeds sponsors are included but no local authority ever paid us for this. They release data, we add it to our tool. We are good at tools, we are not good at working through the release of data. ODILeeds bridges that gap.

Our Leeds Bins app is used by over 3000 residents of Leeds to get reminders of when to put their bins out for collection. It is not written or maintained by Leeds City Council. But it runs on open data that they release. They manage and release the data, we write and maintain the tool. Through open data we’re each working to our strengths.

Our recent report for the UK parliament suggested that it continues to use open data to power a wide range of tools that connect citizens with our democracy.

At our recent highways hack with Highways England we built the first version of our little car counter. It uses off-the-shelf technology to bring real-time congestion and traffic flow monitoring to cities across the UK.

Why do governments, especially local governments benefit from our approach? I think it is simple,

  1. Because we must work together. There is not enough money to innovate separately and in local government there is not enough money for GDS-style master-planning. And yet there is a need to help people solve problems themselves and have access to more efficient services when they need them.
  2. Because the small companies that bring new ideas are rarely good at sales, resales, paperwork. They need a place to bridge the gap between their talent and the big problems that need solving.

I am part of ODILeeds because I think it that open the best way to work together on the big problems.